Nothing says “Happy Thanksgiving” like a table decked out with autumn colors, horns of plenty spilling over with faux fruits and veggies, and of course – cupcakes! Cupcakes are a fun addition to any holiday spread. They’re tasty, they’re portion controlled, and they’re oh-so-festive when decorated for the occasion. If you’re looking to add a little something extra to your Thanksgiving dessert table this year, consider baking up a batch of cupcakes and topping them with some Thanksgiving-themed decor. Not only will they look adorable, but your guests will be delighted by the creativity you’ve put into making their dessert unique and seasonal.
In this article, we’ll explore some ideas for Thanksgiving cupcake toppers and how to make your own. Whether you want to keep it simple with just a few autumnal leaves or go all out crafting detailed figurines of pilgrims and turkeys, there are lots of ways to customize your cupcakes for Turkey Day. Let’s get started!
Why Use Cupcake Toppers for Thanksgiving?
Cupcakes are already a crowd-pleasing dessert, but adding a special topper makes them even more special for the occasion. Here are some of the reasons why cupcake toppers are a great addition to your Thanksgiving table:
They Add a Festive Touch
Thanksgiving cupcake toppers are an easy way to decorate your dessert spread and set the autumn mood. Little details like leaves, mini pumpkins, and pilgrim hats make for a fun and seasonal treat that looks great on your dessert table.
They Show Off Your Creativity
Part of the fun of holiday baking is coming up with clever ways to present your goodies. Thanksgiving cupcake toppers let you showcase your creative talents and will have your guests oohing and ahhing over your handiwork.
They’re a Great Activity for Kids
Let the kids in on the fun by having them help make or decorate cupcake toppers. Whether they want to craft turkeys from clay or pipe on frosting leaves, it’s a nice way to keep them engaged in the kitchen.
They Make Portion Control Easy
When you’ve got a wide array of pies, cookies, and other treats on Thanksgiving, it can be hard to limit yourself to reasonable portions. Having cupcakes with individual toppers makes it easy to enjoy a tasty dessert without going overboard.
They Add Whimsy to the Table
A dessert table lined with cupcakes topped with pilgrim hats, fall leaves, tiny pumpkins, cornucopias, and more will add a touch of whimsy and delight to your Thanksgiving decor. The colors and charm are sure to please people of all ages.
Ideas for Thanksgiving Cupcake Toppers
Now that you’re convinced to give cupcake toppers a try this Turkey Day, let’s look at some ideas for creative ways to decorate your cupcakes for Thanksgiving. From DIY options to readymade picks you can buy, there are lots of routes you can take.
For a quick, simple topper, nothing beats fresh autumn leaves. Just go outside and collect a variety of pretty leaves in the colors of fall – red, orange, yellow, brown. Give them a rinse or wipe down to remove dirt or debris.
You can insert the stem of the leaf directly into the frosting like a little flag. For a more secure option, cut a small slit in the bottom of the leaf stem and insert a toothpick through the slit so the leaf is anchored into the cupcake.
Fresh leaves pair nicely with a seasonal flavor like pumpkin or maple. They bring lovely pops of color and nature’s beauty to the dessert table.
No Thanksgiving is complete without a turkey, so turkey-themed cupcake toppers are a must. You can find all kinds of turkey figurines available in bakery supply stores or online, from simple brown plastic turkeys to intricate turkeys with full plumage of tail feathers.
Look for ones in fun poses, like a turkey wearing a pilgrim hat. You can also make your own out of modeling clay, fondant, or salt dough. These make for great table centerpieces and conversation starters!
Tiny pumpkins are another quintessential symbol of fall that doubles as an adorable cupcake topper. Look for miniature pumpkins at craft stores, farmers markets, or in the produce section of the grocery store. Real ones will last longer than fake plastic pumpkins.
You can simply set the mini pumpkin on top of frosting, or for more stability, cut a slit in the bottom to insert a toothpick. An added touch could be to wrap the stem with a small piece of burlap or fabric ribbon. Arrange a scattering of mini pumpkins on your dessert stand for autumnal charm.
The cornucopia or horn of plenty is one of the classic symbols associated with Thanksgiving. Give your cupcakes a traditional touch with mini cornucopia toppers made from sugar cones, aluminum foil, or even just paper printed with a cornucopia design.
Carefully cut about an inch off the pointed end of a sugar cone, then fill it with pieces of fake fall fruits, nuts, berries, or foil-wrapped chocolates. Secure it into the frosting with a toothpick. For a quick paper version, print out cornucopia templates from online and cut them out to stand in the frosting.
No Thanksgiving is complete without some nod to the pilgrims and Wampanoag who shared that historic first feast. Pilgrim hat toppers are one of the most popular options for Turkey Day cupcakes.
The easiest route is to buy readymade pilgrim hat picks you can insert into the frosting. But you can also fashion your own out of construction paper, cardstock, or even aluminum foil. Decorate them with buckles, ribbons, or other embellishments with a colonial feel.
For a kid-friendly project, provide supplies to let the kids make their own pilgrim hat toppers to take home and display on their cupcake. Not only will they have fun being crafty, but they’ll also get to learn a bit about early American history.
Don’t overlook natural flowers and botanicals as creative cupcake topper ideas for Thanksgiving. Chrysanthemums, sunflowers, daisies, and gerbera daisies come in rich autumnal hues that enhance the seasonal feel.
Buy fresh flowers or picks and insert the stems right into the frosting. You can also fashion your own flower toppers out of tissue paper, crepe paper, or even coffee filters. Fold and fringe the “petals” to shape your blossoms.
A bouquet of autumn flowers as cupcake toppers offers natural beauty and bright pops of color. Arrange assorted flowers and leaves for a “gathered from the garden” look.
Get crafty with Thanksgiving-themed paper cut-outs as easy DIY cupcake topper ideas. All you need is cardstock in fall colors, scissors, and some creativity.
Cut leaf shapes, pilgrim hats, turkeys, autumn blossoms, acorns, cornucopias, pie slices – anything that represents the season. Use a toothpick to insert the shapes securely into the frosting.
For turkeys, cut out feather shapes and fringe the edges. Layer and overlap the feathers to form the turkey’s tail. Add googly eyes or draw on facial features with an edible marker. Let kids in on the fun by supplying materials to make their own paper cupcake toppers.
These tricolor candies are a nostalgic symbol of autumn. Press a few pieces of candy corn into the frosting in a cluster for a pop of color and sugary crunch. You can find bags of candy corn at any grocery store during the fall season.
Opt for mini candy corns to keep the size proportionate as cupcake toppers. Or, use candy melts to fashion your own candy corn shards out of white, yellow, and orange chocolate. Candy corn looks great paired with harvest colors and flavors like pumpkin, maple, and cinnamon.
Figures from Salt Dough
For ambitious cupcake topper makers, fashioning figures and shapes from salt dough is a fun option. Make your own salt dough by mixing 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup salt, and 1/3 cup water. Roll it out and use cookie cutters, toothpicks, or your own hands to shape it into detailed figurines.
Let your shapes air dry overnight before carefully inserting toothpicks and using the toppers on your cupcakes. You can paint details on with food coloring diluted with water or vodka.
Kids will love getting their hands dirty making turkeys, leaves, harvest fruits, vegetables, and more out of salt dough. Just be sure to keep figurines small so they fit nicely atop cupcakes.
Readymade Cupcake Topper Options to Buy
If crafting cupcake toppers from scratch sounds like too much effort, there’s no shame in buying readymade toppers instead. Many bakery supply stores and online retailers offer a huge selection of premade picks and figurines that are quick and easy.
Here are some of the most popular types of readymade Thanksgiving cupcake topper ideas you can purchase:
Find an assortment of turkey designs from simple brown turkeys to ones in pilgrim hats or with full feather tails. The picks easily insert right into the cupcakes. Arrange them in a cluster for a flock of turkeys or scatter them across your dessert table.
Autumn Leaf Picks
No need to scour your yard for pretty leaves when you can buy readymade leaf picks in any color or design to adorn your cupcakes. Look for plastic leaves with nice texture and detail or even glitter and gem accents.
Pilgrim Hat Picks
Festive black or brown mini pilgrim hats with gold buckles are available as cupcake picks for quick and easy use. Display them in a row or around a “water well” of alternating cupcakes for a cute scene.
Woodland Animal Picks
Woodland critters like foxes, hedgehogs, owls, and raccoons are trendy for fall dessert tables. Find mini versions as cupcake picks for some unexpected whimsy and charm. They pair well with forest colors and flavors.
Tiny pumpkins made of plastic, clay, or sugared dough are another autumnal cupcake topper you can buy readymade. With so many adorable options to choose from, you can create a whole patch of pumpkin toppers.
Look for picks of miniature cornucopias spilling over with faux candies, nuts, fruits, and foliage. The variety of sizes and colors allow you to mix and match for a bountiful presentation.
Custom Cupcake Topper Kits
For the ultimate convenience, buy a kit with everything you need all in one. Some contain an assortment of themed cupcake toppers as well as decorating bags, tips, and instructions for finishing off your holiday cupcakes in style.
Designing Your Thanksgiving Cupcake Topper Display
However you decide to top your Thanksgiving cupcakes, don’t forget to think about how you will present and display them for the optimal wow factor. Here are some tips:
Mix and Match
The most dynamic and festive displays incorporate a variety of different cupcake toppers. Include an assortment of shapes, colors, and designs like fall leaves, tiny pumpkins, turkey figurines, mini cornucopias, and more.
Create a Scene
Arrange your array of Thanksgiving cupcake toppers to create a holiday scene. For example, you might cluster the turkey picks together in the middle as the “main course” surrounded by pilgrim hats, flowers, leaves, and cornucopias as the side dishes.
Vary the heights of your cupcake tops for visual interest. Insert some toppers higher into the frosting so they stand taller. Intersperse with some nestled closer to the top of the cupcake. The varying heights make for a more dynamic look.
Make Them Edible
When possible, choose edible cupcake top decorations like fresh leaves, flowers, chocolate shapes, candy, pretzels, cookies, etc. While decorative picks look lovely, edible toppers allow guests to enjoy the whole cupcake.
Consider Cupcake “Wells”
Display cupcakes in wells made from baking cups, foil, candy tins, etc. This allows you to surround the cupcakes with coordinating sprinkles, cookies, nuts, flowers or other decorative elements.
Finish off your cupcake display with touches like burlap, twine, pinecones, acorns, mini pumpkins, leaves, nuts, or other foraged elements. Place these around and between your cupcake wells for a seasonal harvest look.
Cupcake Decorating Tips and Techniques
To take your Thanksgiving cupcake presentation even further, don’t forget about decorating the actual cupcakes themselves. Here are some tips:
Choose Seasonal Flavors
Pick autumnal cupcake flavors like pumpkin, maple, apple cider, gingerbread, cinnamon, nutmeg, or cranberry. Use harvest color tones like burnt orange, mustard yellow, forest green, and nutty browns.
Add Sprinkles or Sugar Crystals
Coat your frosted cupcakes in sprinkles, sanding sugar, or coarse sugar for texture and sparkle. Choose colors like orange, red, brown, yellow, or forest green to enhance the seasonal vibe.
Pipe On Leaves or Blossoms
Use a piping bag fitted with a leaf or petal tip to pipe leaves, flowers, or vines on your cupcakes in coordinating fall shades. Practice piping on parchment before decorating the cupcakes.
Brush With Food Color
For a natural watercolor effect, dilute food coloring with vodka or lemon extract and use a small brush to paint on abstract leaves, seeds, berries, or feathers around your cupcakes.
Add Other Embellishments
You can find all sorts of cupcake decorations to add nuanced touches like chocolate or caramel drizzle, fondant cut-outs, fruit slices, nuts, seeds, mini chocolate baubles, cookie crumbles, buttercream autumn leaves, etc.
Finish with Details
Final details like crushing cookies or candy over cupcakes, adding edible glitter, dusting with cocoa powder or nutmeg, or placing fresh herb leaves take cupcake decoration over the top. Take time with the finishing touches.
Cupcake Display Ideas to Delight Your Guests
To showcase your decorated Thanksgiving cupcakes to perfection, keep these display ideas in mind:
A tiered cupcake stand is ideal for showing off your edible works of art. Position each layer at a different height for a dramatic look. Include Thanksgiving elements like mini gourds or pinecones on the tiers.
Cake Platter or Board
Arrange cupcakes on a decorative wood, metal, or marble cake platter or board. Scatter autumn leaves, nuts, or acorns around the edges for seasonal flair.
Vintage Cake Plates
For a timeworn effect, display cupcakes on vintage porcelain cake or tiered serving dishes. Mismatched vintage china adds charm.
Arrange cupcakes on top of whole mini pumpkins for a natural base. Pumpkins of varied sizes and shapes work especially well. Hollow out larger ones to hold cupcakes inside.
Stack vintage books on your dessert table to create height, then arrange cupcakes on top. Choose books with covers in fall colors.
Wood Crates or Boxes
Line rustic wood crates or open boxes with burlap or a checkered tablecloth. Arrange the cupcakes inside for a farmhouse chic look. Display at different heights.
Fill baskets made from wicker, wood, or twigs with cupcakes and surround with rolled bands of burlap, twine, or pretty ribbon. The woven texture enhances the harvest motif.
Set cupcakes on a small wooden ladder laid horizontally and propped on stacks of vintage books. You can find mini wood ladders in craft stores or made special for cupcake displays.
Hosting a Cupcake Decorating Party
If you’re really looking for interactive fun with your Thanksgiving cupcakes, consider hosting a cupcake decorating party!
Make it a family affair by involving all members of the family, from the little ones on up to grandparents. Or invite some friends over for a low-key Turkey Day eve get together focused on baking and decorating.
To plan your cupcake decorating party:
- Bake cupcakes in advance and let them cool completely. Make a couple different flavors.
- Set up a topping bar with a variety of decorations like sprinkles, nuts, cookies, candies, etc.
- Provide craft supplies for decorating like food coloring, edible markers, modeling clay, aluminum foil, toothpicks, mini baking cups, etc.
- Set out frosting in piping bags fitted with fun tips.
- Offer lots of seasonal inspiration pictures, from table scapes to cupcake design ideas.
- Play some lively seasonal background music to set the mood.
- Keep appetizers and beverages flowing for guests to nibble on as they decorate.
- Once finished, set up a seasonal display for all the decorated creations and let guests package their cupcakes to take home.
The result will be a fun bonding activity that gets everyone excited for Thanksgiving in the most delicious way. Those hand-decorated cupcakes will make for a very special addition to your holiday table!
5 Creative Ways to Use Your Cupcake Toppers
Thanksgiving cupcake toppers don’t need to be limited to just topping cupcakes! If you have leftover toppers after your dessert table, here are some other clever ways to repurpose them:
- Tuck them into houseplant pots or along your centerpiece for unexpected whimsy at your Thanksgiving tablescape.
- Use them when packaging up turkey leftovers to identifies whose is whose. Much better than boring labels!
- Use turkey, pilgrim hat, and pumpkin picks to decorate homemade name cards at each place setting.
- Superglue a cluster of them onto plain hair clips or barrettes to make fun turkey day hair accessories for kids.
- Hot glue fall-themed cupcake toppers like leaves and acorns onto plain candle holders to add seasonal interest.
- Glue sets of coordinating toppers onto wood slices to make ornament keepsakes for each guest. Add a ribbon hanger.
- Cluster them in a glass jar, canning jar, or fishbowl with some twinkle lights for a quick homemade centerpiece or table decoration.
The possibilities are endless for repurposing these whimsical Thanksgiving picks! Crafting with your leftover cupcake toppers is a great way to extend their charm beyond just the dessert table.
How far in advance can I make cupcake toppers?
Many decorative cupcake topper elements like cookies, chocolates, fresh flowers, or leaves should be prepared 1-2 days before use. Crafted items like paper shapes or modeling clay figurines can be made 1 week in advance, as can salt dough shapes after they fully dry.
How do I insert cupcake topper picks securely?
Insert each pick at an angle into the cupcake for stability. If needed, make a small slit in the bottom and insert a toothpick in the slit so the pick stays upright. Also insert picks deeply and firmly enough into the frosting so they don’t topple over.
Can I make gluten-free and vegan cupcake toppers?
Yes, there are many gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan options for cupcake toppers. Choose ingredients like rice flour for crafting edible shapes, coconut whipped cream for frosting, and fresh fruits and flowers for decoration.
Should I avoid certain materials in cupcake toppers?
Avoid any materials not expressly made for food use. Stick to FDA-approved commercially sold baking decorations. Also avoid any picks with sharp wire ends that could cause injury.
How far in advance can I decorate cupcakes for Thanksgiving?
You can decorate cupcakes with frosting and toppers up to 2 days before Thanksgiving. Store frosted cupcakes in the fridge but let them come to room temp before serving. Add any fresh garnishes within 2 hours of serving.
Can kids help make cupcake toppers?
Absolutely! Kids of all ages can participate in nearly any cupcake topper project with supervision. Give them materials like clay, paper, pipe cleaners, food coloring, etc. and let their creativity shine!
Thanksgiving cupcake toppers take your holiday dessert spread to the next level with delight and whimsy. Whether you opt for simple autumn leaves or go all out with handcrafted turkeys and pilgrims, these festive decorations make a statement on your dessert table.
Plus, designing and creating the toppers provides a fun seasonal activity the whole family can get in on. Transform your Thanksgiving table with a festive touch using Thanksgiving paper placemats—easy and affordable table decor that sets the stage for a memorable feast. So tap your creativity, gather some seasonal supplies, and look forward to the oohs and ahhs over your personalized Turkey Day cupcakes. Just be sure to leave room for plenty of main dishes too!